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Harris County TX
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Harris County, Texas Gulf Coast

29 40' 34" N, 95 10' 26" W (29.676111, -95.173889)

Hwy 225 between Houston and Deer Park
20 miles E of Houston
10 miles W of Baytown
40 miles NW of Galveston
Population: 151,227 Est. (2019)
149,043 (2010) 141,674 (2000) 119,363 (1990)

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The First Pasadena State Bank Building
Photo courtesy Robert Farmer, 2007

History in a Pecan Shell

The site was named after that other Pasadena, when it was founded in 1893. Galvestonian John H. Burnett likened the lush semi-tropical vegetation to that of California and since he was platting the town, he also had naming rights. The following year the La Porte, Houston and Northern Railroad arrived and the town developed along agricultural lines - industry and oil were in the (near) future.

After the Great Storm of 1900, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, presented area farmers with 1.5 million strawberry plants to help them recover from the storm's damage. With this jump-start, Pasadena became overnight a strawberry capital - a fact that people are reminded of every Spring when they have their annual Strawberry Festival. In addition to strawberries, the sandy soil also produced cantaloupes, cucumbers, and other close-to-the-ground produce.
Pasadena had a private school as early as 1894 and it joined the Harrisburg Common School District in 1895. In 1899 Pasadena formed the first ISD in Harris County but it wasn't until 1924 when a four-year high school program was established. Genoa and South Houston school districts were consolidated with Pasadena in 1935.
In 1893 a Union Sunday school was holding meetings while adults attended a union church in nearby Deepwater. In 1896 the Methodists formed a church and two years later the Baptists formed theirs. Then the roles were reversed when the Baptists completed their building in 1905 and the Methodists completed their building two years after that. The Assembly of God church was formed and built their church building within a few years.
Pasadena incorporated shortly before Christmas, 1923, and then took the unusual step of disincorporating eleven months later. The city reincorporated in 1928.

The town had been plated on the southern bank of Buffalo Bayou, which was to become the Houston Ship Channel. Joseph Stephen Cullinan of Sour Lake moved his Texaco headquarters to Houston in 1906, purchasing 200 acres in Pasadena along the way. He was among the first to see the possibilities and the inevitable importance of the ship channel. Texaco, Sinclair and Crown oil companies all built refineries alongside the channel by 1920.

In the late 1930s, Pasadena made the transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial one. The looming war in Europe created a demand for ship-channel industries. The population jumped from a mere 3,436 in 1940 to 22,483 by 1950. Smaller communities like Red Bluff were swallowed up. In the 1970s Red Bluff was remembered for it's soon-to-be defunct Drive-in Movie Theater (The Red Bluff Drive In) and is now remembered only for Red Bluff road. From less than 2 square miles in 1893, Pasadena grew to nearly 60 square miles by 1980.

The population continues to grow and from 122,805 in 1990, it has increased further - showing 141, 647 on the 2004 Texas highway map.

Capitan Theatre, Pasadena, Texas
TE Photo, May 2003
Pasadena's Capitan Theatre

Pasadena Memories:
Free Hospital Ice Cream, but no Free Movie Passes

I have called Pasadena, Texas my hometown for 51 years now, as do two of my five siblings. My earliest memories are of a duplex on Witter Street, in North Pasadena. The place sat up on cinderblocks and on a hot day I would be under the house playing in the dirt. Hey, that is what four year-olds do! At the age of five I fell off the porch and broke my arm. That was my first taste of hospital life. Did you know in those days the old white brick Southmore Hospital had a button on the bed and when you pushed it you could ask for ice cream and get it.

The city was to get a tall addition with the completion of the First Pasadena State Bank Building in 1963. 12 stories of fine architecture. The "Tall Lady of Pasadena" is still standing in 2007, although she sits empty, waiting for a rebirth.

The original Rodeo grounds on Red Bluff Rd. where my Papaw Bryant took me to my first circus at the old Rodeo arena.

My brothers and sisters would make the mile-long hike from Thomas Street to Hwy 225 to go to the El Capitan Theater. My eldest brother even got a job there. Remember the Jane Fonda / Lee Marvin movie Catballou? Well, my brother said the title song of that movie almost made him quit. I never got in there for free - not once.

We lived in the Old Gardens subdivision between Thomas St. & Harrop, which was a developement build for refinery families (as I was told in earlier years). We laugh about it now, but the refineries back then would burn off product with flares that were so bright that we could play outside at night - as if it were daytime. Where else but in a refinery town would kids run out and play in the fog produced by the mosquito spraying truck. Here we are now, all over 50 and still bug free. - Robert Farmer, Pasadena, Texas, October 17, 2007

Pasadena Texas Forum

  • Subject: The Washburn Tunnel
    The Washburn Tunnel connects Pasadena with the East End of Houston (near Channelview) via Federal Rd. - Tim Holmes, Jr., Houston, Texas, July 17, 2008

  • Subject: Pasadena's Theaters Again 11-10-06

  • Subject: Pasadena, Texas/Late 1950's to 1965
    My first sight of Pasadena had to be (the best I remember) in 1958. My Mom and Dad and Brother and myself moved from Indiana or Kentucky to Pasadena Texas because my Mother had family there and since I went to 7 different elementary schools and my Dad was a house painter, evidently we liked to move from one place to another.

    So I ended up going to Golden Acres (a suburb of Pasadena) Elementary in the 5th grade and then to Pomeroy Elementary for the 6th grade in 1959. I remember making good enough grades the year I was there that I got to be a street crossing guard when school let out which got me out of class a few minutes early and also I got to wear the hat with the badge on it and the white web belt cross thing that went across your chest and carry the cane fishing pole with the red "Stop"flag on the end of it.

    Then on to Jackson Junior High School for the 7th, 8th and 9th grades. I don't really seem to have a lot of memories of that time period. I was probably just glad to pass each grade and move on toward graduation.

    Finally in 1963 I started the 10th grade at Pasadena High School and was really struggling to make passing grades. I remember taking Auto Mechanics for 3 hours a day my last 2 years at PHS and that was just to graduate because at that time Algebra and any higher math were elective classes and I was having enough trouble with business math. The night I graduated from Pasadena High, my family packed up and we moved on to North Louisiana. But Pasadena was at that time the longest I had ever lived anywhere and it sure seemed like home.

    I eventually moved on to the Navy for 4 years then back to North Louisiana and eventually hired on with South Central Bell and got transferred to South Alabama where I still live but Pasadena has always held fond memories for me.

    I still miss it after all these years. Thanks for letting me share my memories. - Ron Mason, August 30, 2006

  • I attended Garden Elementary [so] I remember the Long' s Theater. I must say that I only attended that theater about five times in my life. They built the Gardens Theater and had a lot of things for kids to do. On Saturdays we could get on stage and sing and dance. A lot of fun things like who could finish a baby bottle full of water first. Yep, the nipple was on there and they had prizes for us.

    Then it burned down and along came the Capitan. Now what I remember were the seats. They would push back to let people get by. When I got married I was able to bring my son to the crying room. My family and I moved to Waco to go to Baylor College. I also worked at Woolworth's during the summer. Klin's Ice Cream was across the street from the high school. Do you remember that the cones and cups were square? Terry Reed worked there. We all lived in the Gardens. We had a lot of things to grow up with. My children all say they wished that they were born in the late 30's.

    [Does anyone] remember when the police started giving jaywalking tickets in front of the high school [or] the Rodeo out on Red Bluff Road? We had two drive-in theaters also. One I want to say [was] on Shaver and then the Red Bluff. Galveston was always our playground during the summer. I now live close to Dallas and sometimes go back and look around. - Jimmie Killebrew, Wade School 1944-1956, May 22, 2006

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